A PLATFORM FOR EMERGING TALENT: THE HISTORY OF THE FESTIVAL
The first festival for up-and-coming filmmakers was held in 1981, though its history goes back two more years. In 1979, Internationale Münchner Filmwochen GmbH had been founded in order to create a film festival in Munich. However, political disputes regarding the arts meant that several years would pass before FILMFEST MÜNCHEN could be held for the first time. To prevent a lapse of funds provided by the city and state governments, support was found for various initiatives planned as part of a series of events known as “Vorfilm” which would precede the later film festival.
Wolfgang Längsfeld And Producer Bernd Eichinger, 1989
These included the 1st European Student Competition, held at the Filmmuseum in 1981, one year before the first FILMFEST MÜNCHEN, under the direction of Wolfgang Längsfeld. Längsfeld, then a professor at the University of Television and Film Munich (HFF), was thus able to put into practice his idea of creating a place for emerging European filmmakers to gather in Munich. In 1999, the festival, which had been renamed the INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF FILM SCHOOLS, was moved from the fall to the summer and held as part of FILMFEST MÜNCHEN at the MaxX theater at Isartor. However, just four years later, in 2003, the festival was again decoupled from the Filmfest, rescheduled to the fall, and moved from the MaxX theater back to the Filmmuseum on Jakobsplatz.
On the occasion of its 40th anniversary, which was postponed slightly due to the coronavirus pandemic, the festival, since renamed FILMSCHOOLFEST MUNICH, is moving to the host university HFF, where founder Wolfgang Längsfeld once taught his students. Between 2011 and 2022, Diana Iljine held the position of festival director. Since October 2023, Christoph Gröner, who also heads FILMFEST MÜNCHEN, took over as festival director.
The shareholders of FILMSCHOOLFEST MUNICH are the Free State of Bavaria, the City of Munich, the umbrella organization of the film industry, and Bayerischer Rundfunk. Thanks to them and numerous benefactors and award sponsors, it is possible to host a successful festival every year.
One of Lars von Trier’s first short films, ‘Nocturne’, already caused a sensation and won first prize at the Festival of Film Schools in Munich. Just two years later, his graduation project ‘Befrielsesbilleder’ also received an award. Since then, the arguably best-known Danish filmmaker has repeatedly caused an international sensation.
WELCOMED TO MUNICH: THE ACCLAIMED DIRECTORS OF TOMORROW
Over time, FILMSCHOOLFEST MUNICH developed into one of the most renowned festivals and, owing to its homey atmosphere, one of the most popular for emerging talent. Time and again, the festival has hosted talented young people who later went on to international careers after completing their training.
As an example, one of the films screened at the first edition of the festival in 1981 was the short film NOCTURNE by a young man from Copenhagen named Lars von Trier, who was studying film directing. Von Trier’s film about a young woman who dreams about some terrible things on a hot summer night received the Special Jury Award. Shortly afterward, von Trier returned to the festival, this time with his graduation film BEFRIELSESBILLEDER (1982). Once again, the Danish director was honored for his directorial achievement.
Other young festival guests who later caused a sensation include celebrated German directors such as Caroline Link, Marcus H. Rosenmüller, Maren Ade, Detlev Buck, Rainer Kaufmann, and Florian Gallenberger as well as such international greats as Thomas Vinterberg, Lone Scherfig, Mathieu Kassovitz, Jan Svěrák, and the creator of Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, Nick Park.
Not only did directors come to Munich to present their short films to audiences; so did producers and team members such as Edu Grau, who was among other things responsible for the look of the short documentary SCARLET SUNRISE (2007) and who later had an international career as director of photography of such films as A SINGLE MAN (2009) and SUFFRAGETTE (2015).
This festival was the first to invite one of my films. And I recall what a great experience it was for me to participate. On top of that, the festival juries were extraordinarily kind to me.
The international students on a guided tour of Munich, 2019.
An event at the Kunstakademie 1987.
There's always plenty to laugh about at the HFF Brunch, as seen here in 2018.
ARRI Cinema has also presented Filmschoolfest films, in 1988.
The HFF Munich has been hosting the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of FILMSCHOOLFEST MUNICH for a long time.
The director Wim Wenders was jury chair in 2002.
ONLY THE BEST: THE SELECTION PROCESS AND FESTIVAL SCHEDULE
It is important to us that the film have something to say, first to its own audience and then to the audience of its neighbors near and far. Emotional, exciting, entertaining, facilitating insight, and unmistakably capable of standing on its own.
FILMSCHOOLFEST MUNICH has committed itself in each edition to showing the best work by the current crop of emerging filmmakers, presenting a cross-section of the work produced at film schools internationally. Since 1981, the selection process has been well established: every year, film schools from all over the world submit a selection of their students’ current productions, which are then considered for the festival by a three-person panel of experts.
The short feature, documentary, and animated films — usually 50 to 60 in number — selected by this committee are fit into ten modules, which are shown to the public over the course of a week in mid-November, previously at the Filmmuseum and now at the HFF. All films are screened in competition and compete for lucrative awards as they are judged by an independent festival jury headed by a jury chair. The award ceremony is always held on a Saturday at the end of the festival. It’s rounded off with a party, including beer, a buffet, and dancing.
I enjoyed being a part of the Munich International Festival of Film Schools. I watched a lot of innovative films (and a few that weren’t so brilliant), and I met some wonderful people. I really do look back fondly upon it, which is amazing in itself — because considering how many people bought me drinks, it’s a wonder I remember anything at all.
Uli Edel was the first Jury chair in 1981.
THEY CAME, THEY SAW, THEY CONFERRED: THE FESTIVAL JURIES
From the very beginning, FILMSCHOOLFEST MUNICH has focused on creating proximity between filmmakers and filmgoers. This also includes the fact that the festival jury generally watches the short films with the audience at the public screenings. The juries have always been illustrious, especially when it comes to the person chairing them. In the inaugural year, 1981, it was HFF graduate Uli Edel. He was succeeded by such renowned filmmakers as Alan Parker (1988), Wim Wenders (1993), Roland Emmerich (1999), Hal Hartley (2004), Sebastian Schipper (2011), and Anca Miruna Lăzărescu (2019).
Jury chair Sir Alan Parker and Dick Ross, 1988.
Being jury chair at the competition among film schools was a challenge I gladly accepted. I did not, however, expect the breadth and precision with which these films portrayed (or so it seems to me) how younger people experience the world today. Right then and there, I felt older and younger at the same time. It was an incredible experience, and I’m glad I was given this opportunity.
MUNICH WARMTH AMID THE CHILL OF AUTUMN: THE FESTIVAL ATMOSPHERE
Admittedly, the weather in Munich is pretty cold in November. But many of the young filmmakers who were invited to FILMSCHOOLFEST MUNICH raved afterwards about the warmth they felt upon being around each other, the audience, and the festival team.
Adding to this cozy feeling are various forays into Munich’s nightlife as well as a varied supporting program of workshops and panel discussions that will be held at the HFF in this anniversary year (organized by Elena Diesbach of the HFF).
Thus it’s no wonder that, as surveys indicate, FILMSCHOOLFEST MUNICH is particularly popular among members of the International Association of Film and Television Schools. If you’d like to experience this special festival vibe, you’re cordially invited to attend the screenings at the HFF, to discuss the films with the students who made them, and to party with the students!